REACTION: Budget fails to acknowledge value of social care to UK economy, say leaders

House of Commons

Social care leaders have described yesterday’s Budget as “another missed opportunity” for the sector, which is facing huge financial pressures despite contributing £50.3bn per annum to the economy.

Care associations and charities were hoping for immediate funding for social care to prevent admissions and get more people out of hospitals and safely into their homes and communities.

They said that while the recent levy will provide £5.4bn over three years to fund the new cap on care costs, this won’t address the challenges in the existing system.

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Liz Jones, policy director at the National Care Forum, said: “This Budget is a missed opportunity to recognise social care as a growing sector which already contributes £50.3bn per annum to the economy in England and the 1.5 million strong workforce making this happen. It also fails to build on the opportunities the Health and Care Levy could bring to support wide-ranging and ambitious reform if fairly shared between social care and health.”

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said the sector has been “left out in the cold” despite his organisation making a “plethora of constructive solutions” as to how the government could alleviate the “crisis situation”.
He added: “Failure to support the sector will result in unprecedented demand on the NHS, a loss to local economies and of course a failure to deliver care to those most in need.”

Kirsty Matthews, CEO of Hft, a national charity supporting adults with learning disabilities, said: “It is disheartening to find social care remains largely absent from the government’s agenda. Far from an ‘age of optimism’ today’s Comprehensive Spending Review does not provide sufficient investment in the future of our sector.”

Rishi Sunak said local authorities will receive £4.8bn in new grant funding over the next three years, as part of plans to reform health and social care.

Social care leaders have said that while the funding is welcome, there is no guarantee that it will go to social care.

“If it does, it will all be absorbed in covering the rise in the legal minimum wage, which we know is inadequate to compete with other sectors for scarce labour,” said Dr Jane Townson, CEO of Homecare Association.

“Even combined with the Health and Social Care Levy these measures do not go far enough to address the poor pay, terms and conditions of employment which limit growth and development of the workforce to address current and unmet needs,” she added.

Nick Clarke, head of Social Care Consulting, Grant Thornton UK, agreed, adding: “The £4.8 billion funding to local government for social care, and the recently announced Health and Social Care Levy, will help paper over the cracks for some councils for a while longer. But it will not transform social care and until the collective budgetary need of both the NHS and social care, together, is considered to meet the short and longer-term challenges they face – with a fully integrated approach to tackle those challenges, especially around prevention – nothing will.

“Councils report being deluged with requests for help from older and disabled people in the community, which they are unable to support. Meanwhile, NHS trusts are struggling to discharge people from hospital due to lack of capacity in social care and community services. This makes it difficult to reduce waiting lists as swiftly as required, regardless of how much extra funding is poured into the NHS.”

Cllr James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “It is disappointing that the Chancellor has not provided additional funding to address existing pressures on adult social care services and not increased public health funding. We remain concerned that the money allocated to social care from the Health and Care Levy will be insufficient to fund reforms. The potential rise in local government core spending power over the next three years will also be dependent on councils increasing council tax by 3 per cent per annum.

“Investing in local places is one of the most powerful tools of the government’s levelling up agenda. With adequate long-term resources and freedoms, councils can deliver world-class local services for our communities, tackle the climate emergency, and ensure all parts of the country are able to prosper in the future.”

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Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke